1. Lalique Ceylan pattern vase – £11,000
No collection of Lalique vases would be complete without the budgerigar Ceylan vase designed in 1924. The example offered by Lyon & Turnbull on April 29, estimated at £6000-8000 was exceptional.
“It is simply best Ceylan vase I have ever seen because of the depth of the opalescence and the subtlety of the green staining”, says former Christie’s specialist Joy McCall. “It’s superb - right down to the long tails of the birds that were very often polished down during production.”
It came for sale as part of a group of 57 lots (largely composed on vases) from a private European collection. It was rewarded with £11,000.
The small details of casting, colouring and condition help explain why two apparently similar Lalique items can be priced quite differently. Less than a week later on May 5 another example of the opalescent Ceylan vase sold for a more typical £3500 at Sworders.
2. Maud Kathleen Lewis landscape – £10,000
This oil on board was one of four signed for the Canadian folk artist Maud Kathleen Lewis (1903-70) offered for sale at Hansons in Banbury on May 1 with guides of £100-200 each.
They did rather better, bringing prices of between £7400 (for a woodland logging scene) and £10,000 (the late summer landscape, pictured above).
Paintings by the Lewis come with an extraordinary story. Famously she lived most of her life in relative poverty in a one room house in Marshalltown on Highway No 1 in Nova Scotia. Stricken by arthritis, she began her artistic career by peddling hand-drawn and painted Christmas cards door-to-door for five cents each before expanding her range to include small paintings, typically under 12in (30cm) across, worked on wallboard with Tinsel oil paints.
From the 1940s into the 1960s these cheerful scenes of Cape Island boats, horses pulling a sleighs and coastal landscapes were sold on the tourist trail for $2-3 apiece. Only in the last years of her life did she achieve national recognition and begin to sell her pictures for up to $10.
Her story and works became popular after her death (the Richard Nixon administration acquired examples for the White House) and prices rose according. Sales of Canadian art will often feature examples priced in the Can$10,000-20,000 range with the auction record thought to be Portrait of Eddie Barnes and Ed Murphy, Lobster Fishermen, sold on eBay in 2017 for Can$45,000.
3. Signed Luke Skywalker photograph – £15,000
On May 4, East Bristol Auctions sold items from the estate of actor of Dave Prowse (1935-2020). No surprises, the sale highlights were those items that related most directly to his role playing Darth Vader in Star Wars.
A sale highlight was a signed photograph from Mark Hamill who played Luke Skywalker, which reads ‘For David – You’ll Always Be ‘Dad’ Vader To Me – Your Loving Son, Mark’.
“It’s completely unique,” said auctioneer Andrew Stowe. “There is only one person on the planet who can get that kind of autograph from Mr Hamill – Dave Prowse. It’s funny, its poignant, it’s a really special item and I’m sure Star Wars fans will love a chance to own it.”
The photograph carried an estimate of £1000-2000 but found a buyer at £15,000.
4. Gordon Russell oak cabinet – £5300
The Design sale at Sworders in Stansted Mountfitchet on May 4-5 included a group of Arts & Crafts items from the estate of the design writer and biographer Fiona MacCarthy OBE (1940-2020). Married to the Sheffield based silversmith and designer David Mellor (1930-2009), who she first met when conducting an interview in 1967, MacCarthy’s background as a journalist for House and Garden and the Guardian lay the foundations for seminal works on CR Ashbee, the Omega Workshops, William Morris, Eric Gill and Stanley Spencer. Her final book, Walter Gropius: Visionary Founder of the Bauhaus, was published in 2019.
MacCarthy and Mellor’s love of the Arts & Crafts was evident in the 16-lots at Sworders. Alongside kilims and hand woven rugs were pieces of oak furniture by leading practitioners of the movement including three Gordon Russell 'Stow' pattern chests from the 1920s. All carried labels for Russell Workshops at Broadway in Worcestershire including details of the materials, design numbers and the names of the workshop carpenters who made them. They included this English oak two-part cabinet and chest with four drawers and panelled cupboards and marks for the design number X113, the cabinetmaker G Beadle and the date May 18, 1929.
According to records held at the Gordon Russell Museum, this was a special order and a unique commission made for one Mrs Laws. Special orders' such as this only started in 1929 so this can be considered among the first. Estimated at £3000-5000, it took £5300.
A 'Stow' pattern oak chest of four drawers (design No. 609) with laburnum carved handles sold at £5100 while an ensuite dressing cabinet of two drawers below a pair of cupboard doors took £3000.
5. Bristol orphanage sampler – £5500
The New Orphan Houses in the Ashley Down district in the north of Bristol were once the largest orphanage in the UK. Built between 1849-70 by the Prussian evangelist George Müller (1805-98), the five houses held 2050 children at any one time.
Some 17,000 passed through the doors before the buildings were sold to Bristol City Council in 1958.
Skill with a needle was a key part of an education that also included scripture, arithmetic, grammar, history, geography, Swedish drill and singing.
The fabric samplers stitched by the girls closely followed a set pattern: all have shared alphabets, motifs and are worked in red thread on cream linen. Kept as keepsakes, they were also useful when showing potential employers their abilities.
This example offered at Bentley’s in Cranbrook, Kent on May 1 with a modest guide of £140-160 was one of the finest of its kind. Measuring (55 x 44cm) it was sewn by Amelia Fox of New Orphan House, Ashley Down, Bristol and dated 1868.
Her considerable skill with a needle and thread earned a hammer price of £5500 – among the highest ever paid for a Bristol orphanage sampler. Other examples sold in recent years have achieved prices between £1000-3400.